Goalkeeper Glen Morris saved a last-minute penalty to help Aldershot Town claim a precious point from their trip to the north east
The real drama may have come at either end of an otherwise unremarkable game, but Aldershot Town could nonetheless be happy with their entire evening’s work after a mammoth trek to the north east.
Searching for their first away win in three months, a stoic goalless draw at Gateshead – only secured by Glen Morris’s injury-time penalty save – still represented a small but significant step in the right direction in the Skrill Premier, especially after losing striker Aiden O’Brien to a hamstring strain in the final minutes of the pre-match warm-up.
That thrust Bradley Bubb into a debut that was both belated and premature, after initially being named as a substitute within hours of finally receiving international clearance to complete a move agreed eight days previously.
It was the Shots’ defensive solidity, however, which shone through as they successfully stifled a Gateshead side boasting both impressive home form and a prolific goalscoring record.
The hosts’ best chance to snatch all three points came in the 93rd minute, with a harshly-awarded penalty which Morris scrambled over the crossbar to ensure that justice was done.
“It was never a penalty,” asserted Shots manager Andy Scott after watching a replay of Joe Oastler’s alleged offence.
“It might have been a foul but it was outside the box. It would have been a travesty if we had lost that.
"I don’t think either side deserved to win, we lacked quality in the final third but defensively we were excellent.
“Gateshead are a decent side, they’ll be in the play-offs, so it’s a very good point for us. We were very solid.
"But this has got to be a building block – if we’re hard to beat away from home, we’ll start shooting up the league. I think this will give everybody a lot of confidence.”
Although keenly fought and full of endeavour, the game was virtually bereft of clear chances until a slew of substitutions galvanised the final quarter of an hour.
Neither goalkeeper had a save to make in the opening 57 minutes as defences stood strong and the Shots worked hard to close Gateshead down.
Morris’s sharp stop, to parry James Marwood’s drive at his near post, heralded a more open and attacking affair in which Gary Mills’ side dominated the closing stages.
Yet Jordan Roberts’ angled shot, saved by keeper Adam Bartlett, could have taken all three points south for the 58 die-hards who made the mighty 605-mile round trip on a cold and wet Tuesday night.
Soon, though, a Gateshead corner sparked a 12-man goalmouth scramble which was somehow repelled from virtually on the Aldershot Town line, and Colin Larkin stretched to divert Marcus Maddison’s superb cross onto the underside of the bar.
Morris then saved his side twice in the final three minutes, clawing veteran Micky Cummins’ header out from his near post, and then diving to his right to deny Larkin from the spot after Oastler was incorrectly penalised for tripping Maddison.
It was perhaps the touch of good fortune which had deserted the Shots in Wrexham, when another solid away display brought them nothing but defeat.
Allied to the continued rebuilding of Fortress ESS, such resolve should, before long, bring Aldershot Town just their third away victory of the season and go far to propelling them towards the safety of mid-table.